Friday, February 26, 2010

669 Pick a Number

669 Pick a Number

You wrap some bogus idea in a number and everyone assumes truth. After all, we all know numbers are absolute. So anything with numbers also must be absolute, right? Wrong.

The unemployment rate is about ten percent, now. A little less here, a little more there. That means 90% of the US work force is working, right? Wrong.

Light beer has 10% fewer calories than "regular" beer so you won't get fat drinking it or you can drink more of it and achieve the same level of girth, right? Wrong.

Apple computer is worth a zillion times more today than it was ten or 15 years ago because the price of the stock has shot through the roof, right? Wrong.

You wrap a fish in newspaper and it's still a fish. You wrap a concept in a number, it doesn't change the concept even though arithmetic is right.

A wily statistician once said "you give me a set of any numbers and tell me the result you want and I'll get it for you." That may be a bit of an exaggeration (you'd have to be a wily statistician to know for sure,) but there's a great idea there. And one that's practiced widely.

Now, let's pivot. Here is a quote from President Obama: "I hope this isn't political theater." The president was speaking at and about the health care telethon the other day. But the telethon WAS political theater (except both the intermission and the play were longer than your normal Broadway drama.) And it wasn't about health care, it was about numbers. Numbers of people covered, uncovered, under-covered. And the cost of this that and the other thing was the main focus. And the taxes or lack thereof.

The President is trying to save his plan, such as what's left of it. A valiant effort. He's doing it with charm, an appeal to common sense and numbers.

The legislators, many of them, are trying to torpedo it. All they have is insurance industry talking points. And numbers.

Baloney wrapped in arithmetic.

Shrapnel:

--Six words from Akio Toyoda testifying before the US Congress should resonate throughout the industrial world: "My name is on every car." It would wise for the heirs of Louis Chevrolet, Walter Chrysler, Henry Ford, the Dodge brothers, Ransom Olds, Karl Benz and Soichiro Honda to remember that. Might improve things for all of us.

--Tilikum the whale has been involved in the deaths of three humans, the latest being trainer Dawn Brancheau at Sea World in Florida. A terrible act by a 12-thousand pound animal, but apparently not entirely unexpected. They call 'em killer whales for a reason.

--So, now what happens to Tilikum? Probably a demotion or a move to another facility. Friends say Brancheau wouldn't want him killed and others say getting into the water with an orca as dangerous as getting into a race car or a stunt plane.


I'm Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you're welcome to them.®
©WJR 2010

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

668 Here We Go Again

668 Here We Go Again

Last October (Wessay #609 10/9/09) this space was occupied by news of huge cutbacks at ABC Radio News. Soon afterward (#663 12/4/09) NBComcast sent David Sarnoff whirling in his grave. Today, we have new cutbacks and new whirling. Again the management assisted suicide comes at ABC -- this time at the television network. And the guy rotating underground is Roone Arledge who turned that operation from a stodgy, hidebound throwback to days before it even existed into a bright, fast moving, intelligent and well balanced news division that in many ways was the envy of its peers.

Arledge used his sports broadcast background to bring both shine and substance to what then was the third ranked network.

Now, his successor, David Westin, has declared a "fundamental transformation" in the Disney owned news division. "Fundamental transformation?" Yes, a transformation from a major force in journalism to a plea to the movie and theme park bosses in Hollywood, Anaheim and Orlando to "please, master, spare my life!."

Fundamental transformation is the Westinism for huge staff cuts. Three to four hundred employees. Twenty five per cent of the work force. Yeah. That's pretty fundamental, alright. Westin told spouted the usual aphorisms: competition from cable, the internet, etc for his share of the decline in network news viewership. And let's not forget that people don't get home early enough to habituate the 6:30 shows any more.

But what about content, Dave, babes? Could that have anything to do with the decline? What's on your shows these days?

NBC seems to be doing just fine using the traditional model of telling people the basics of what went on that day, combined with some interesting (and sometimes meaningless) features.

Some of Westin's moves make sense and other networks have implemented them for the longest time: combine the staffs of the weekday and weekend morning and evening staffs. And there are some innovations that will no doubt be adopted by competitors: combining producers and camera operators and editors into one body, for example. This is following the cheap local cable operations into showing stuff but avoiding the fuss, muss and bother of actual reporting. Who has time to "report" when you're busy setting up camera angles?

The saddest part of Westin's moves is his assertion that the view won't notice the difference. And about that, he's right. The network news in general and ABC news in particular has become so dumbed down in recent years that they'll take whatever is offered.

Dave, babes is a lawyer, not a news guy, even though he's headed ABC News for more than a dozen years. In a profile, New York Magazine described him as "...among the canniest politicians in the long, intrigue-filled history..." of his division. Lawyers and politicians (even if just office politicians) have no place in a newsroom. Especially not a great newsroom, which ABC is.


Shrapnel:

--Cheney was said to be resting comfortably in a hospital after his most recent heart problem. Just what does that mean? Is it that he's drugged to the point where nothing bothers him? Or does it mean he just hasn't died yet?

--How do you teach instinct? That's one of the questions raised in the passing of the local talk show to a new host and focuses specifically on the selection of stories for the sponsored daily Wall Street report. After you do it for a million years, you just know which stories will fly and which won't -- and how do you put that in a job description?

--Ferlin Husky finally got into the Country Music Hall of Fame and it's about time, since he's 84 and at one time was one of the best selling artists in any field of music. Asked about being bypassed for 40 years, Husky used to say "I guess I'm not country enough." Yeah you are and congrats to you and the other inductees, Jimmy Dean, Don Williams and Billy Sherrill.


I'm Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you're welcome to them.®
©WJR 2010




Monday, February 22, 2010

667 Celebrity Cookware

667 Celebrity Cookware

By all accounts, Emeril Lagasse is an all around good guy. He's chubby and funny and very New Yorky when he goes on camera to show you how to cook some exotic dish or sell you a machine or vessel to make your kitchen life easier.

Same thing with Wolfgang Puck. A jolly German-esque guy who brightens your tattered old recipe book or offers you a machine to make your kitchen life easier.

Both of these fellows are regulars on the shopping channels. Each has a bunch of restaurants. These are guys you like.

Then, there's Martha, who is not terribly nice, but also offers a line of kitchen tools and machinery, mostly through Macy's these days. But she got her start at K-Mart. (Yes, the elegant Martha started peddling her name brand wares at K-Mart.)

How about Joyce Chen. There are thousands of people who believe she invented the wok.

Since we have become (or maybe always were) a culture of celebrity worship, it's only natural that celebrity chefs (and Martha) should dominate the world of cookware. But it's tough to find a plain old pot or pan these days. And how much are we paying to see Emeril's or Wolfgang's or Joyce's or Martha's mug on the label?

And what's next in the merchandising pipeline? How about celebrity toilet seats. There are enough endorsers available. Since the celebrity cookware is the product of famed and supposedly excellent users of cookware, so should the toilet endorsers be famed and excellent users of toilets.

There would be great demand for a potty with the faces of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney below the water line. Tiger Woods' commercial comeback is right there waiting to happen. Bernard Kerick can use some extra bucks to pay off those legal bills. How about Prince Akio Toyoda? Or for the IRA crowd, Prince Charles? Osama Bin Laden wouldn't be a bad choice either. Plus, when sending the royalty payments, you'd at least know where to find him.



Shrapnel:

--When you're hungry and plan to eat out, you always land at a restaurant that serves tiny portions on big plates. When you're not all that hungry and plan to eat out, you usually land at a place that serves huge portions on relatively small plates. At least at the latter you can take unused stuff home and leave it in the fridge where it turns into something unidentifiable after you've left it there for awhile.

--There's a hand made pasta shop around the corner. The stuff they sell is very down-home Italian but terribly inconsistent. But at its worst, it's still better than Ronzoni and similar. And, yes, it's even better than Barilla.

--The big current trend in pasta is whole grain. No matter how well made, this stuff is awful. Pasta wasn't meant to be whole grain, is perfectly healthy and good in its original forms and if you don't overdo it, won't kill you.,


I'm Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you're welcome to them.®
©WJR 2010



Friday, February 19, 2010

666 The Headless Cells

666 The Headless Cells

This was back in the 1940s at a meeting of Cub Scouts at the cubmaster's house. There we were in the basement working on our Pinewood Derby cars when guys in suits come down the stairs and take the cubmaster off in chains. Later, we found he was a member of what was then called a Communist cell.

The commies of the 40s were a loose bunch united by ideas but with no formal organization, no formal leadership and minimal if any communication among members. Independent financing, and plenty of it. Object: overthrowing the United States.

Does that sound familiar? Here's another outfit that works about the same way: Al Qaeda. Loose cells scattered here and there, with little or no formal organization and minimal communication among members, other than what's been called "internet chatter." Independent financing and plenty of it. Object: Overthrowing the United States.

There is a boss of all bosses, of course, and we all know who he is. Of course, he's not out there holding pep rallies. But the key to this outfit's awful successes is that headless cell thing.

If the Communist Party of the USA and Al Qaeda aren't enough evidence that this kind of organization can work, here's the latest addition, the Tea Party movement. No formal leadership. Loose cells scattered here and there, with little or no formal organization and minimal communication among members, other than what's been called "internet chatter" and talk radio. Independent financing and plenty of it. Object: Overthrowing the United States.

About the money: we know where the Communists got their bucks: from the Soviets. We know where Al Qaeda gets its bucks, the Saudi Bin Laden oil fortune. And we kind of know where the tea partiers get theirs, just not the specifics, yet. We may have our suspicions, but no proof. Yet.

You want to get rid of the commies, the terrorists, the tea party and for that matter the drug cartels, organized crime or anything else? Find and then find a way to cut off the money. Not through "sanctions" or somesuch. Just go in there and freeze it, unless you can figure out a better way to get your hands on it... or their hands off it.

--Shrapnel:

--Sarah Palin took the hundred grand from the tea partiers. Then she told them that they're not a political party and better associate with one or the other of the "real" ones. Translation: don't run your own candidates.

--Which is stronger, the newsman's instinct or the parent's. You never know the answer to a question like that until something provokes it. The first two calls on the Austin TX plane crash were to the two Richards kids who live there, and who were not near enough to the incident to be involved in it.

--The Olympics, Tiger Woods' latest public statement, American Idol, Kevin Eubanks? Who cares. No, that's not right -- it ought to be "who SHOULD care?"




I'm Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you're welcome to them.®
©WJR 2010

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

665 Old Lawyers Never Die

665 Old Lawyers Never Die

Remember Robert Shapiro? Of course you do. He was one time leader of OJ Simpson's "dream team." He's defended other criminally charged celebrities and is a founder -- and now commercial face -- of the do-it-yourself law services internet company "Legal Zoom."

Another OJ lawyer, Johnnie Cochran, actually IS dead. But his image is still used by what has become a nationwide legal franchise.

Do you remember Ken Starr? He was the Republicans' attack dog, who kept trying to bring Bill Clinton down. Now, he's President of Baylor University in Waco, Texas, a town famous for the Branch Davidian fire trap/death trap standoff with the feds.

Well, Starr actually is a Texan, so this is something of a homecoming. But don't these guys ever go away?

This will not deteriorate into a bunch of lawyer jokes. (Here we are resisting the impulse to say "lawyer joke" is redundant. Oops. Said it anyway.)

Baylor has been headless for almost two years. The previous guy was fired with the school issuing a vague statement about his failure to unite various factions that normally are in perpetual war at any college. No details, of course.

"Unifying figure" is not exactly the phrase that comes to mind with thinking of President Starr. But unifying students, faculty and staff is not the same as unifying a country, say, the USA. So maybe Ken's found his niche after floating around various different jobs. Prosecutor, persecutor, judge, teacher, law school dean. And maybe he's mellowed with age?

The school issued a "Welcome Kenny" statement almost as vague as the one it issued about the president they bounced in '08. Something about his "Christian faith..." blah blah blah. So who else would they pick to head a Christian college, Richard Dawkins?"

A lot of these schools are self-accredited or accredited by associations the schools set up to make themselves seem legitimate. To its credit, Baylor has real accreditation and you can actually get a good education there if you work at it.

Like lawyers, universities have their own secret code words. In the case of "president," read fundraiser-in-chief." In the law biz, the term "rainmaker" means a guy who brings in clients. Well paying long term clients. So Starr could be a star in either field these days.

Kenny turns 64 this year (2010.) So he's no kid. And this new gig is a lot easier and more rewarding than chasing ambulances.

Think he'll get a salary? Or will it be contingency fees?

Shrapnel:

--This is the 665th entry in this series, which means the next one will be 666. Or not. It's a hard number to use in a title.

--It's a famous New York address, 666 Fifth Avenue. It actually is 666-670. Why they didn't or don't use the "70" number is one of life's great mysteries.

--It's not like the place is an historic landmark, or anything. It went up in 1957. Everyone thinks its part of Rock Center, but it ain't.

I'm Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you're welcome to them.®
©WJR 2010

Monday, February 15, 2010

664 Bill's Ill

664 Bill's Ill

Regular readers and listeners know this space reveres Bill Clinton. Here's a guy who can be doing the Sunday Times crossword in ink, while simultaneously having some fun with a woman under the desk and talking on the hotline to Moscow about upcoming weapons negotiations. They don't make a lot of guys like that. And this one's a keeper.

Love him, yes. Trust him? Not in one particular context. The President recently underwent another heart incident. They put a couple of stents in one blood vessel to open it up. Okay. Happens every day. During all the folderol, the President's cardiologist, Allen Schwartz, said this whole thing had nothing to do with the man's lifestyle -- and that he'd been toeing the line since his bypass in 2004.

Oh, really?

The President's home is in Chappaqua, New York. Therein or within a very few miles are a McDonald's, a Taco Bell, a bagel cafe and a fist full of other similar joints. And where there's a McD's, there's bound, also to be a Burger King and a Wendy's. Maybe even a White Castle (there's one in Nanuet!) or an Aunt Annie's.

If you're his driver and William Jefferson Clinton asks you or tells you to take him to Mickey D's, what are you going to say? "I'm sorry Mr. President, but that doesn't fit in with your heart healthy diet." No. You're going to say what you're supposed to say, which is "Yes, sir. I'll bring the car around right away."

And once a Big Mac o phile always a Big Mac o phile. So the guy's got to wear a leg monitor. Or take a "special sauce" Breathalyzer test now and then. Or maybe the secret service has to start analyzing security cam tapes in Westchester.

Bill -- babes -- you have the very best job on earth, Former President of the United States. Good pay, great benefits, no work, or at least no work you don't want to undertake. You don't want to blow all that by sneaking off to KFC, do you?


Shrapnel:

--Actor Kevin Smith was bounced off a commuter flight over the weekend because, said the pilot, he was too fat to fit into a "standard" seat. Southwest later apologized and gave him a McDonald's coupon book as a bonus. Smith admits he's big, but he was, he said, still able to put both armrests down and buckle the seatbelt.

--Had enough Winter yet? Well, it ain't over and neither is the snow-in-strange-places. Worry not, since it's only a few months away from saying "hot enough for ya?"

--It's understandable that the cost of living figures exclude the price of fuel and food because of extreme volatility and its effect on the statistical model. But what's hard to fathom is why they call the items left in the index its "core." What's more "core" than food and fuel?



I'm Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you're welcome to them.®
©WJR 2010

Friday, February 12, 2010

663 How to Cover A Storm

663 How to Cover A Storm

Well, most of us are still here after the two-punch snow job we got over the past week or so. So even if it was the storm of the century (and it might turn out to be so, though the century's pretty young yet) we made it. And chances are, we watched a lot of it on TV and chances are we couldn't tell the difference between these two and a thousand others that have come and gone.

Meteorologists will tell you that each storm has a distinct personality, a unique behavior and its own fur coat. This is not true. It's the same damn thing over and over.

And they're all covered by reporters and producers and camera crews in the same way.

First, there's the run-up. When the Big One is forecast, it is necessary to dispatch reporters to the barn or garage where they keep the plows and the sand trucks. They'll set up the picture so there's some poor beleaguered guy in need of a shave, bundled up and with a watch cap on in the center. In the background will be huge stacks of bags of something, most likely sand or salt and fork lifts going back and forth carrying smaller stacks of bags from one side of the room to another. No one has ever determined why the fork lifts have to move the stuff from side to side when the entrance to the barn or garage is where the camera is standing. Probably they have to move the stuff under their contracts, but don't want to risk moving it so as to bury the poor beleaguered guy in need of a shave, bundled up and with a watch cap. Or the camera.

The guy will then say something like "we're ready for this one, Bob, we have X tons of salt and X tons of sand and we're in good shape." The reporter then peers into the camera with that oh-so-sincere and serious look and says something like "...so we'll soon see all of these men and women out on the roads, clearing the paths ... blah blah blah..."

When the snow starts, possibly a day later, the Street Cams take over. The news anchor will go from outdoor scene to outdoor scene showing you, the viewer, what it looks like on this road and that corner.

Then the meteorologist steps in and talks in front of colorful charts that show the projected path of the storm and seven different alternatives in case the first is wrong. By the time that's finished, you wish you were watching the shopping channel.

Finally, comes the snow. So now it's time to bundle up the reporters and send them out into chin-high drifts. If there aren't chin-high drifts, seat them on hip high drifts. If there aren't hip high drifts just let 'em stand up and prattle.

Every damned one of them is the same. Only the punch line differs. There are two possibilities: (1) "We made it through the storm! or (2) We dodged the bullet this time.




Shrapnel:

--Here are the 911 photos ABC glommed from the National Institute of Standards and Technology. They will mean less and less depending on how far you were from the Trade Center that day. Those of us who knew and used the buildings or lived downtown or worked downtown or escaped with our skins will think differently.

--Jay Leno didn't even say goodbye on his last prime time show. They said it was because the Costas interview ran over time. C'mon, guys. The show's TAPED, and they could have edited the final version down.

--Leno, Letterman and Oprah shared a camera in a super bowl commercial. Great fun, great bit. Does anyone remember what the ad advertised?



I'm Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you're welcome to them.®
©WJR 2010

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

662 Moon Over Washington

662 Moon Over Washington

A man of the cloth, he is, the Rev. Sun Myung Moon. Forget about his links to Farrakhan. Forget the love bombed teenyboppers peddling flowers on New York street corners. And the links to Nixon. And the links to Reagan. And the mass weddings. And the tax law violations. And the messiah act. A man of the cloth he is. And a great disseminator of news, something like the Associated Press and the New York Times. Well -- sort of.

He does start newspapers, however. Like the News World of New York City, the one that printed the front page announcement of a "Reagan Landslide" before the polls were closed, apparently on the orders of Rev. Cloth.

Media Mogul and Man of the cloth. News World didn't last as a New York publisher, but the company sure did and now it owns the ever beleaguered and once proud United Press International and the soon to be once proud Washington Times, which reports say has hemorrhaged money since its founding in 1982 -- billions, maybe. But they earned a reputation of being honest about their politics (far right, but not too feisty,) and carving out a niche -- to give the right wing its red meat with a little wine afterwards.

So it was a stunner to find a headline like this one: "Stimulus Foes See Value in Seeking Cash." You'd expect a story like that on the Huffington Post or the Daily Beast or the New York Observer, but the Washington TIMES?

The article (2/9/10) goes on to name a bunch of legislators who campaigned vigorously against and voted gleefully against President Obama's stimulus plans, but went after the money after it was approved and with equal vigor and glee. You expect that. After all, the smell of money to a Congress member or Senator is even more magnetic than the sight of a TV news camera.

Panhandling is not illegal in Congress. In fact, it's standard operating procedure. Hypocrisy, the same. So the actions of these guys is not terribly surprising. But the source of the story is.

And you have to laugh at the "explanations" from the legislators' publicists (everyone needs a spokesman.) "Sen. Glitch's response was entirely consistent." "Well, if it's going to be there, our state should get its share of the money, too."

Thanks to the Rev. Moon and his newspaper for pointing all that out to us.


Shrapnel:

--Pierre Sutton, son of the late Percy Sutton is running the family's Inner City Broadcasting and by all accounts doing a pretty good job of it. David Paterson, son of Basil Paterson (still with us, thank goodness,) is running New York State as governor. So, sometimes the apple falls close to the tree and sometimes it doesn't.

--Speaking of governors and native New Yorkers, Ed Rendell of Pennsylvania has delivered his annual budget message. Ironic. They haven't really finished the last one yet.

--Car recalls, car recalls, car recalls. We're forever hearing about car recalls, but they should also recall some drivers. Especially those who forget what a turn signal is and therefore don't use it.


I'm Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you're welcome to them.®
©WJR 2010

Monday, February 08, 2010

661 Habit and Book Look

661 Habit

Do you always start your tooth brushing on the same tooth? Or do you vary it? Do you always put your left (or right) shoe or sock on first, or does it matter? Do you always put your car in the driveway nose out? How about the newspaper: do you decline to buy the top copy and go one or two copies down in the pile for yours? Or the elevator: five people are waiting, you're the sixth. Do you press the call button or just assume that one or more of the first five have done so?

We are creatures of habit. Or addiction.

Smoking is the latter. Only a non-smoker thinks smoking is a habit. We've learned that officially in the last decade or so. Before that, smokers were looked down upon in the same way as people who were habitually late for appointments or habitually late with their bills or habitually late with their library book returns.

How about your bedroom closet? Does everything hang in the same direction. Or do some shirts or blouses or skirts or slacks hang front to the right or front to the left and others the other way 'round?

Habits. Are they a form of mental shorthand... something that lets us go about routine tasks without having the waste time or effort figuring something out every time we do it?

Maybe. Depends on the habit and your reaction when you're forced NOT to practice it.

If you hang a shirt up facing the "wrong" direction and then go about your business, you're in good shape.

If it annoys you to the point that you come home from work early to turn the shirt around -- you got trouble.

Those of us with a lifetime of punctuality come what may are officially reasoning that time is valuable and lateness is a form of breaking one's word or lying or telling someone that his time is not as valuable as yours.

But it's different when showing up late for work on Monday because a snowstorm causes a self-induced irrational tailspin of worry, guilt and distraction.

Shrapnel:

--Palin-ology and "retard:" First she blasts Limbaugh for using the word and he replies that he was only quoting Rahm Emanuel. Then she blasts Emanuel and says Limbaugh was only kidding. So which is it, Madam Tea Party?

--Some OTHER Tea Party Goers in Nashville took a page right out of the far left play book. They staged a demonstration against their own side this past weekend. Costs (too high,) "officialness" (unestablished.)

--Put some Smirnoff in the samovar, Tea Partiers. It'll help you deal with that $550 ticket of admission (half price for anyone physically under seven years of age and accompanied by a chronological adult?) It might also calm your anger at everything sane and normal people want.

BOOK LOOK:

Coin and Precious Metal Values 2010. Jim Kingsland (House of Collectibles/Random House. $13.99)

Before you flip your late Aunt Nettie's 1907 Gold Eagle into cash... or you buy someones 1907 Gold Eagle... or you sell your "unwanted gold jewelry" to some late night TV infomercial company that'll send you a postage paid envelope and a check, buy and read this book. Before you decide that "gold should be a part of your investment portfolio," buy and read this book. And if you have a bunch of old zinc or lead hanging out in the attic and don't know what to do with it, buy and read this book.

Author Kingsland takes you through the arcane, often unregulated netherworld of precious metals (and not-so-precious metals) with historical context, trend projections, and more warnings than a Surgeon General analyzing something made of tobacco, sugar, salt cholesterol and trans fats. You'll learn what to look out for, what to ask, and what to expect.

And this guy knows his stuff. He writes in the same understated way he's reported on radio and television on markets and business since the late 1970s. Understated, yes. People who know what they're talking about don't need to shout.

For the record, by way of disclaimer, Kingsland is a friend and former colleague, but were he not, there would be not a syllable's difference in this review.

Richards Readometer Rating: 1. No question.

===Readometer Key:
1 - Buy it.
2 - Wait for the paperback.
3 - Take it out of the Library.
4. Flip through it at the book store.
5. Forget it.

I'm Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you're welcome to them.®
©WJR 2005, 2010


Friday, February 05, 2010

660 The Big Game

660 The Big Game

The Big Game is Sunday. It pits New Orleans against Indianapolis. We can't tell you the name of the game or the names of the teams, only that is the NFL's championship contest. Were we to mention the actual title, the NFL would probably force this post from the internet under the threat of a lawsuit.

Yes, it's okay to say World Series or Masters Tournament or US Open. But it's not okay to say Super... uh oh, almost slipped there.

We're not supposed to say those two words one after the other without having paid zillions for the rights to do so. Technically, this applies only to advertisers who are not participating in the overpriced, overrated commercials that come along with the game or are somehow profiting from the name. So if Joe's Bar and Grill is having a party this Sunday, say around 6pm, it may advertise "the big game," or "the big game in Miami," or the "professional football championship." But apparently "Colts" and "Saints" can't be uttered. Just New Orleans and Indianapolis. Before one recent year's "big game" the NFL forced a church to change the name of its you-know-what party to something else because in advertising it, the called out The Name That Can't Be Mentioned and planned to charge admission. Let's not let those money grubbing churches profit from taking the name of the game. Let them hold bake sales and pot luck suppers!

Preserving intellectual property is important. But when something gets to be part of the language -- like Kleenex or Aspirin -- it's time to compromise. In the meantime, put some new Duracells™ in the remote, get yourself a six pack of Bud™ sit down on your La-Z-Boy™ right there in front of you Sony ™ TV. Maybe some ribs and a bag of Wise™ Chips. Plenty of Bounty™ Napkins and watch You Know What. It might even be a good game. Even if New York and New York aren't in it.


Shrapnel:

--Why does every right wingnut broadcast have ads for gold buying? It's part of the fear mongering that has become their way of life -- and communication. But the dollar is getting stronger and gold prices are falling and if you don't believe that, check out the shopping channels that are back in the 24K business after hawking silver for the past year because gold prices were too high.

--There's been a lot of Toyota stuff in this space for the past while, and here's more: Ya think the federal folk are pounding the company so mercilessly because they now own a major competitor, GM? Nah. They'd never do that (would they?)

--Who's smarter, the rating agencies or Warren Buffett? They've just lowered Berkshire Hathaway's rating which had been triple-A because the company bought a railroad. The smart money's on Warren, plus since when does BRK have to BORROW?!


I'm Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you're welcome to them.®
©WJR 2010

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

659 More On Toyota

659 More On Toyota

Here come the unexpected consequences. First there was the floor mat recall, then the accelerator pedal recall and all in all multi millions of Toyotas are or soon heading for the free repair shop to get work done that shouldn't have to be done. But while the immediate physical problem will be fixed, other types are here to replace them.

First of all, there's GM. GM, the car company you own if you're an American citizen, just killed one of its venerable brands, Pontiac. Okay. What's that to do with Toyota? The two companies co-manufacture the Pontiac Vibe, a small SUV that looks almost exactly like a Toyota Matrix, because that's what it is. Doddering and tottering GM figured it could hook up with a company that still knew how to build cars and they'd have a hot seller. They were half right. They sold plenty of 'em.

Then, there's Volkswagen, which says it's going to be an "aggressive competitor" and "won't target any specific manufacturer." Yeah. Right. Those new discounts? Just coincidence. Ditto those new discounts from GM, Ford and Hyundai.

The free market at work? But can the competitors still make a profit with the lower price? And if they can, why wait until a competitor is on the ropes?

Honda says it's not doing anything. It doesn't have to. Its most recent recalls, affecting under 200,000 vehicles in the US were for things like badly working door locks and some obscure cosmetic problem with some Accords. You can bet demand for Honda cars will rise. You can bet they won't unreasonably increase production to meet the demand.

As for Toyota itself? The Secretary of Transportation says they were slow to respond to the safety problem. That's probably somewhat true. But respond they did. And if you have one, it'll get fixed, and you won't spend money, though you will spend time.

But the company will spend plenty of both and then have to work on its reputation for safety and reliability. They can build 'em bulletproof for the next ten years and a great many would-be customers won't believe it.


Shrapnel:

--Year over year sales results for January 2010: Toyota down 16% Ford up 25%, GM up 14% Chrysler down 8%. Your correspondent has followed the nine lives of Chrysler closely since the 1950s. They've managed to hang on even when that seemed like anti-gravity. But now, it's iffier than ever and if they can survive this climate, they will be the same kind of miracle as the '69 Mets and the '69 Jets.

--The groundhog saw his shadow and we get six more weeks of winter. No surprise there. What would have been surprising would be for Punxsutawney Phil to leap out of the arms of his captors, grabbed some one's microphone and started railing about having to do this dog and pony show every year with the near-universally same result.

--Several readers have complained about my persnickety and "old fashioned" insistence that February be pronounced correctly. It's not old fashioned at all, it's ultra modern For example: unlike the previous President, the current one can properly say "nuclear" which is the start of a trend toward pronunciation as it's meant to be.


I'm Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you're welcome to them.®
©WJR 2010

Monday, February 01, 2010

658 Bonus Time

658 Bonus Time

You have to feel sorry for all those Wall Street types whose bonuses have been cut. You have to shed a tear that these men and women (women?) who have worked so hard to screw the rest of us can't get along on a few million a year and even with the recession and some minor cuts in indirect comp can't make it.

In Davos, where the bankers meet, they're saying Lloyd Blankfein is going to going to get an extra 100 million because "his" Goldman Sachs had such a yummie year.

Never believe what a competing bank says about a competing bank. So maybe Lloyd will only get, say, 97 million extra. This is going to make Obama unhappy, but there ain't much he can do about it. And there ain't much we can, either.

But a guy's gotta make a living, right?

If Goldman doesn't pay him the big bucks, he might quit, right? And we couldn't have THAT, right?

It's not just Blanky. The CEO of American Express is due for a 60 percent raise as of today. Could you do with something like that? How about a SIX percent raise? Yes, that would be just fine, thanks. For Amex and for the rest of us.

What's most galling about all this is the poor folk who are getting all this dough believe in their hearts they have earned it. And they come out with statements like "The American people understand how hard we worked to dig the company out of the deep hole..." Anyone ask how they got into that hole in the first place?

Guy down the street digs sewers for a living. Now THAT's digging out of a hole. Think he got a 60% raise today? No. Nor six. Nor three. And he's not complaining. He's too busy paying the rent and the electric bill and his taxes and the groceries.

He doesn't need a 100 million dollar bonus; probably wouldn't know what to do with it if he got it. But a little bit more for each of us wouldn't hurt. If some prices go up as a result, shop smarter. Or less often.


Shrapnel:

--Foster's Beer plays the super-Aussie game pretty well. But when they got to be a hit here in the states, they started making "our" version in Canada. Now they make it in Texas which just doesn't seem right -- like making Lone Star in Sydney.

--Anyone will tell you that New York area beer ain't what it used to be. It's the water in Newark where most of it is (or was) made. Since they cleaned it up the rivers, nothing from there tastes as good as previously... and it's not just beer. It's also pizza, bagels and rye bread.

--It's February, already. January has come and gone. And it's time for the annual second-month diatribe: Feb RU ary, not Feb U ary, despite what Walter Cronkite used to say.

I'm Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you're welcome to them.®
©WJR 2010